In light of ongoing war in the Middle East, recent terror attacks throughout the world and tenuous political balances in many countries, Pope Benedict XVI has released his message for January’s World Day of Peace, calling for peace in the light of truth.
Cardinal Renato Martino, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented the Holy Father’s message at the Vatican Press Office this morning. Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and Msgr. Frank J. Dewane, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the pontifical council were also on hand.
The Pope begins his message for the January 1st celebration by noting that "The very name Benedict, which I chose on the day of my election to the Chair of Peter, is a sign of my personal commitment to peace.”
“In taking this name,” he said, “I wanted to evoke both the patron saint of Europe, who inspired a civilization of peace on the whole continent, and Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a 'useless slaughter' and worked for a universal acknowledgment of the lofty demands of peace.”
Cardinal Martino explained that the Pope chose “truth” as the major theme of his message, “linking its many dimensions to the various questions concerning peace in the modern world," and drawing inspiration from the Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes."
Benedict himself said that, “'In truth, peace' - expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace."
"Peace” he said, “cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as 'the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder.'“
“As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds 'to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us'."
War, terrorism, and arms
The message itself is divided into four main parts. The first, Cardinal Martino said, “which is of a spiritual and theological nature, highlights the meaning and value of the bond between peace, truth and lies."
The second part addresses the question of peace in real situations of war, while the third looks at peace in relation to terrorism, and the forth, from a standpoint of re-launching the process of disarmament.
From a historical point of view, the Cardinal added, the Pope "formulates a very severe judgment of last century" and highlights the "need for peace" which is intrinsic to human beings and is "the shared birthright of all men and women of the one human family."
Speaking about real situations of war, the Holy Father writes that, in these cases, “there must be full respect and complete observance of international humanitarian law, which ... must remain a point of reference for the international community."
Concerning terrorism, Benedict offers a unique analysis on the phenomenon saying that its roots lie in nihilism and in fanatical fundamentalism, which "have an entirely erroneous approach both to truth and to the truth of peace."
Nihilism and fundamentalism, he wrote, "both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God Himself. ... In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious and ideological motivations.”
Despite the sometimes grim world situation, the Pope does note “certain signs of hope in the work of building peace.”
“I think,” he says, “for example, of the decrease in the number of armed conflicts... These are reassuring signs which need to be confirmed and consolidated by tireless cooperation and activity, above all on the part of the international community and its agencies charged with preventing conflicts and providing a peaceful solution to those in course.”
He warns however, that "All this must not, however, lead to a naive optimism. It must not be forgotten that, tragically, violent fratricidal conflicts and devastating wars still continue to sow tears and death in vast parts of the world."
The Pope also lambasted those world leaders who “count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries.”
“Along with countless persons of good will,” he said, “one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”
He added that “The truth of peace requires that all - whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them - agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.”
Pope Benedict closed his message calling for every community to “undertake an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace.”
“At the same” he said, “time I ask for an increase of prayers, since peace is above all a gift of God, a gift to be implored incessantly.”